Audi adds two models to 2014 Q5 line: TDI, S

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Audi’s compact luxury crossover vehicle, the Q5, jumps from three models to five for 2014. New to the 2014 Audi Q5 lineup are the high-performance SQ5 and the highly fuel efficient Q5 TDI, which I drove for this review. They join the 2.0T, 3.0T and Hybrid models.

The new 2014 Q5 TDI with quattro has an base price of $46,500. With options and delivery charges, the tester’s price was $51,445. Audi’s entry-level Q5 starts at $

Promising improved power and greater economy, clean diesel offers an interesting alternative to hybrid technology. Clean diesel is a relatively new technology in the U.S. More common in European markets, its progress here in the U.S. was delayed for many years by the lack of low sulfur diesel fuel.

The Q5 TDI is powered by a turbocharged, 3.0-liter diesel with direct fuel injection. Power output is rated at 240 horsepower and 428 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s an increase of 15 hp and 22 lb.-ft. over Audi’s first generation TDI engine — and it’s 55 pounds lighter. The crossover takes 6.5 seconds to get from 0-60 mph — quick by any CUV measure.

The diesel’s abundant torque at low rpm makes the Q5 feel especially lively when accelerating from low speeds. The Q5 TDI is smooth running and notably free of the noise — and odor that used to be associated with old-school diesel. The Tiptronic transmission’s eight speeds are well spaced to optimize the engine’s power band. Maximum towing capacity for the Q5 TDI is 4,400 pounds.

The TDI’s power is balanced by fine fuel economy. EPA rates the Q5 diesel at 24 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway. That puts it at the top the Q5 lineup, fuel mileage-wise, and my test drive showed that these numbers are real world attainable. On the downside, diesel fuel costs more than gasoline.

Like all the Q5’s, the TDI is outfitted with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. Quattro is a full-time system that distributes power between wheels as needed to maintain optimum traction. While not designed with hard core rock climbing in mind, the Q5 has 7.9 inches of ground clearance and will tackle light off-roading with ease. More commonly, quattro’s traction benefits will be appreciated by drivers in slippery conditions.

Going down the road, the Q5 feels stable, with handling that’s among the best of its class. Ride quality is comfortably stiff; firm enough to corner with confidence, soft enough to ride smoothly.

The Audi Q5 TDI also has a quiet, comfortable cabin. Leather seating, mixed with walnut and aluminum trim lend an upscale look. Two-row seating holds five, and 6 footers fit in both rows. Cargo capacity ranges from 29-57 cubic feet — about average for the segment. Rear seatbacks fold nearly flat with the load floor, allowing long items to be carried.

Audi Q5 TDI’s are equipped at the Premium Plus level, which is to say, all basic luxury bases are covered. Some technology, entertainment and creature comforts are offered as standalone options, but most are bundled into packages. My test driver was outfitted with the MMI Navigation plus package ($3,550). The package is highlighted by a voice controlled navigation system, Audi’s parking system (front and rear sensors) with rearview camera, a color driver information display screen, CD/DVD player, and Audi connect with online services.

Other available equipment bundles include the Sport Interior package, and the S Line Plus package.

The addition of the TDI powered model, along with the performance S, adds more choices to the Q5 motor menu. In a premium crossover segment full of attractive alternatives, Audi has given buyers more reasons to shop their showroom.